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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 06:31 GMT 07:31 UK
BT 'puts customer first'
UK telecoms giant BT has pledged to boost customer satisfaction and control costs as part of a new three-year growth plan.

The former telecoms monopoly said on Monday that it aims to cut customer dissatisfaction by 25% a year, while continuing to pay down its hefty debts.

It also set out new growth targets for broadband internet subscriptions, while halting further investment in its consumer and small business telecoms services outside the UK.

But contrary to the expectations of some analysts, the company didn't announce any job cuts.

"We will achieve profitable growth by striking the right balance between growth and managing our finances with great discipline," said BT chief executive Ben Verwaayen.

"We are going to act as one company focused on our customers."

Debt target

The heavily-indebted telecoms giant, which owed 13.6bn ($20bn) at the end of last year, said it aimed to cut its debts to below 10bn by 2005.

An international acquisition spree boosted the company's total borrowings to a high of nearly 30bn two years ago.

Mr Verwaayen added that the company aims to trim costs at its BT Retail subsidiary by 175m and achieve further cost savings of 200m at BT Wholesale.

And loss-making services targeted at small businesses and consumers outside the UK will be closed if they do not move into profitability during the next three years.

Broadband expansion

The company is also hoping for a sharp increase in the take-up of broadband internet services by consumers.

BT aims to boost revenues at its broadband retail arm BT Openworld by 35% by 2005.

A new product allowing subscribers to surf the web without going through an internet services provider is expected to increase demand for BT internet connections.

"Broadband will be at the heart of BT," the company said in a statement.

In the City, BT shares were marked 1.75p lower at 271.75p in mid-morning trade on Monday.

See also:

26 Feb 02 | Business
BT cuts broadband charges
07 Apr 02 | Business
BT to change direction
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